03/24/10 — NC GOP proposes 'opt out' legislation

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NC GOP proposes 'opt out' legislation

By Matthew Whittle
Published in News on March 24, 2010 1:50 PM

With President Barack Obama's signing of federal health care reform into law Tuesday, Republican lawmakers in Raleigh announced plans to file legislation to protect North Carolina residents from the legislation's mandates and penalties.

"We don't have the specific language for this yet, but basically the legislation will make it possible for North Carolina residents to opt out of public health insurance under the health care reform act," state Sen. David Rouzer, R-Johnston, said. "We believe (that requirement) is unconstitutional under the commerce clause of the Constitution. It's the mandatory purchase of the good that many states believe is unconstitutional."

And while he believes that's ultimately a question the courts will decide, he also said that if states like North Carolina can pass legislation giving people the opportunity to opt out of these mandates and exempting them from any resulting penalties, the more they can bolster their arguments in federal court.

Rouzer also said that lawmakers are likely to be taking a close look at the "unfunded mandates" coming down as part of health care reform, specifically Medicaid.

"The expansion of Medicaid is going to be a significant issue for us in terms of what it's going to cost. It's already a huge chunk of the budget and there's no money coming from Washington," he said.

Speaking to the Wayne County GOP Club Monday night, Rouzer and state Rep. Efton Sager, R-Wayne, explained they would be pursuing these legislative actions, in part because they did not expect Attorney General Roy Cooper, a Democrat, to follow the more than 13 states that filed suit Tuesday afternoon. Rouzer also said such bills would be following in the footsteps of other states, such as Virginia, that have already passed similar legislation to protect their residents.

And, while they acknowledged they may not have the votes to get it through during the short session, which will begin in May and is designed to focus only on the state's budget and related legislation, they are hopeful about getting something passed next year after winning a majority of seats in the General Assembly in November.